Purpose: To examine the co-occurrence of cardiovascular risk factors and cluster subgroups of college students, ages 19 to 39, for cardiovascular risks based on socio-demographics, non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors. The overall goal is to identify a target group of individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Conceptual Framework: The conceptual models guiding this study were the Health Belief Model and the Information, Motivation and Behavior Skill Model.
Method: A cross-sectional, descriptive study was conducted using co-occurrence patterns and hierarchical clustering analysis. A total of 158 college students, who attended a Midwestern university, aged 19 to 39 years (M = 24.3, SD = 4.6) were in the final sample. The study variables included socio-demographics and health history, biometric measurements (height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, lipid panel), and risk assessments (30-year cardiovascular disease risk and lifetime atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk).
Results: More than half of the participants were male (54.4%, n = 86) and White (63.1%, n = 99). Approximately 32.3% (n = 51) of the participants reported having a family history of heart disease. The average 30-year hard cardiovascular risk assessment was 2.3%, the 30-year full cardiovascular risk assessment was 4.8%, and the lifetime risk estimate was 31.4%. More than 50% of participants had one or more cardiovascular risk factors; the most commonly occurring cardiovascular risk factors were overweight/obese and hypertension (10.8%, n = 17). Of the total 34 risk factors that co-occurred, 30 of them involved being overweight/obese. Using hierarchical clustering analysis, seven-cluster-solution was obtained. Three clusters displayed significant relationships related to the lifetime and 30-year cardiovascular disease risks.
Conclusions: Detecting high-risk groups through a clustering technique can be used to identify groups of college students to target for interventions. The hierarchical cluster analysis identified White, single males with a family history of heart disease, overweight/obese, hypertensive, and occasionally (weekly) consumed red meat were considered the higher risk group to target for a cardiovascular risk reduction intervention compared to other subgroups. Health care providers such as nurses should use this information to initiate conversations regarding health promotion and intervention in the high-risk individuals.
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